Cholera Outbreak Looms in Nigeria, Says UNICEF

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With 34 out of 36 states in the country affected by the flood, and 1.3 million people displaced already, with over 200,000 houses partially or fully damaged, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says there is a looming outbreak of cholera in Nigeria.

The agency through a recent statement said there is already an increase in diarrheal and water-borne illnesses, respiratory infections, and skin ailments. It noted that as of 12 October, a total of 7,485 cholera cases and 319 related fatalities had been recorded in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe alone.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said: “Children and adolescents in flood-affected areas are in an extremely vulnerable situation. They are particularly at risk of waterborne diseases and emotional and psychological distress. UNICEF is working closely with government and other partners to provide life-saving assistance to those who are most in need”.

Nigeria, which is ranked second out of 163 nations in UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), is deemed to be at “very high risk” of being affected by climate change.

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Children in “extremely high-risk” nations have a fatal combination of exposure to various environmental and climatic shocks along with the high level of underlying child vulnerability as a result of insufficient access to basic services like water and sanitation, healthcare, and education.

Nigeria Country Director at IRC, Babatunde Anthony Ojei, said: “Nigeria has not seen flooding like this in more than a decade. At least, 13 states are experiencing a deadly cholera outbreak with more than 6,000 cases and a four-five percent case fatality ratio. The IRC needs more resources to scale up our health workers to treat cholera patients and our water and sanitation programming to help us stop the spread.

“Having contributed less than one percent of the world’s global emissions, yet ranked in the bottom 20 percent of countries equipped to respond to the impacts of climate change, Nigeria is increasingly bearing the brunt of a crisis it did not cause.

“More than one million children in the Northeast are expected to suffer from acute food insecurity this year, making them more susceptible to succumbing to diseases like cholera. The world, especially countries contributing the most to climate change, must step up and help countries suffering its consequences”.

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IRC has requested improved cooperation between Nigeria and Cameroon on excess water releases and suitable mitigation plans for communities that are in the line of impact in light of the anticipated increased rainfall over the upcoming months.

“If nothing is done, more children and women may die from preventable diseases. The international community must step up to support those in need of life-saving care in Nigeria,” he added.

Chioma Ezenyimulu, director of the Anambra State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, said floods have wreaked havoc on seven of the state’s 21 councils and have raised concerns about the spread of cholera and other infectious diseases.

According to the most recent data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 31 states reported a total of 10,745 suspected cases in 2022, including 256 fatalities for a case-fatality ratio of 2.4%.

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WHO has also expressed worries about the death rate, with this year’s flood nearly three times higher than the average of the previous five years. The agency added that the ‘exceptional decision’ to cut the number of cholera vaccine doses from two to one would allow the vaccines to be ‘eked out until the end of the year and given to more people in more countries.

The organization said that due to a severe shortage of cholera vaccines caused by an unprecedented rise in global cases, health officials were forced to cut the number of doses given to people in outbreak hotspots in half.

Executive Director for WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, Mike Ryan, said the decision marked “a sad day. We shouldn’t have to do it. And it is purely based on the availability globally of vaccines.

“When treated immediately, the watery illness cholera is easily curable but can be fatal within hours if not, he said.

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